Benjamin & Sally – Australia Meets South Africa

It’s Monday again, which means we are getting ready for another week filled to the brim with ideas and inspiration. We kick off with Sally and her Australian husband Ben’s heartwarming love story. The two met and fell in love in London, but recently moved to Cape Town. They had their wedding in the Southwell/Kasouga area in the Eastern Cape. Sally and Ben wanted to honour their different nationalities, so they opted for an Australia-meets-South Africa theme.But for the Sally the decor and theme of the wedding was secondary. She says, “Beauty is obviously important, but I am so grateful to have had a groom as well as family who reminded me when necessary that the joy of marrying your beloved really does make the colour of your napkins pale into insignificance!”. Amy Scheepers was behind the lens.

Tell us your love story.

Ben first spotted me when I walked into his office in the service centre of the London Borough of Hackney. I was contracting for various local governments as a disability assessor and his manager was my “go-to” guy in that centre. After said manager did the initial introductions, it really was just a matter of time before I succumbed to the charm of the tall, handsome Australian! We shared many M&S sandwich lunches in the old churchyard nearby while getting to know each other and started dating in July 2010. We got engaged on a late summer’s day in that same churchyard in August 2011. Over the next seven months we planned our wedding, left the UK, spent a month in Australia with Ben’s family and moved to Cape Town, with me starting a new job and Ben in the process of becoming legally allowed to live and work in South Africa. We married on the 31st March 2012 – a day of such joy, victory and celebration!

What were the highlights of your wedding day?

Walking down the aisle towards the man I get to grow old with, the joy of the ceremony, popping home between photos and reception to have a sneaky cup of tea together, speeches from our dads and siblings, celebrating with friends and family, the amazing Asian-inspired food.

Any advice for brides-to-be?

Don’t let planning the wedding steal from preparing to actually Being Married. The ceremony is the most important thing that happens that day, the reception is purely a celebration of what happens when you make your vows. Remember that he also “only gets married once” and therefore really does get to have a say in decor, food, music, etc. So know which of your ideas are most important to you, and be prepared to compromise on the others. Find time during the day to spend even just five minutes together, just the two of you, to really absorb what is happening and to prevent it all from flying past without stopping to appreciate the moment. Choose someone you trust to be MC. Give them an allocated helper if need be! Provide them with all the necessary names, contact numbers and schedule of the day before hand, run through your idea of how everything is going to work with them and then leave the running of the reception in their hands. Sit back and ENJOY your wedding day. Don’t worry about what is supposed to happen next.

Looking back, is there anything you would have done differently?

Eat more of the amazing food! Especially from the cake table …

Did anything unexpected happen?

My dad presented us with a baton that he’d made from South African pine and Australian blue gum, symbolic of our union, wound together with a three-corded rope representing Ecclesiastes 4 verse 12.

Where did you get most of your ideas and inspiration from?

From the beginning we wanted our wedding to have reflections of South Africa and Australia and to fit with the location – a rustic, old village hall named after my great grandfather. Kasouga has been a beach retreat for my family since the early 1900s but we wanted to ensure that both our heritages were represented, not just mine! Therefore we aimed for a blend of the two in flowers, décor, food and music. As I shared these ideas with friends and family, so they sent me appropriate pictures,blogs, etc. which helped to get the ball rolling. Pinterest was also a very useful tool!

What was the biggest obstacle you had to overcome while organising your dream wedding?

Planning a South African wedding while in the UK and while planning to leave the UK, and move to Cape Town via Australia.

Any hints for other brides on how to keep your wedding budget-friendly?

Keep it simple. Especially the tables. You don’t need a lot on there! One drawback of wedding blogs and pinterest is that you see SO many ideas and want to include them all. Pick your favourites and rather do them well than try and cover everything. Stick with what represents YOU. Prioritise what you want to spend money on. We decided not to have wedding favours and to be honest, I’m not sure anyone even noticed … Get your friends and family involved. You’ll be surprised how talented your people are! Check out the super cheap fabric shops (Kwaai Lappies if you’re in Cape Town!) and you can find incredible deals on ribbon and other basic fabrics. It did add a little stress (as in “but will people dance to this?”), but we saved money by making the music playlist ourselves.We had a Spotify account from the UK and paid about £5 extra that month for offline access. It meant that all our music was legally acquired (without being overly expensive) and that the playlist was compiled with our favourites and our guests in mind. We then got a friend to just keep tabs on the music during the evening. Friends and family can provide cakes instead of getting one wedding cake.

Any time-saving or organising tips?

Get the guests involved pre-wedding. We were so blessed that people were willing to help with so many different aspects. Delegate tasks, give the person your general vision (be as specific as you need to be) and then let them run with it. It was an exciting build-up to be preparing, shopping and creating with others. It created an amazing community feel even before the wedding day.

What song did you choose for your opening dance?

Nina Simone’s My Baby Just Cares For Me. We wanted a song that had a dance-able beat and relatively appropriate lyrics but mostly that we could just have fun with!

What was the “theme” of your wedding, and why?

Australia-meets-South Africa in a rustic setting! Colour-wise: a natural palette with navy accents.

Did your wedding preparations include any DIY projects?

Wooden signposts pointing out relevant locations en route to the service and reception and one big signpost outside the reception hall with relevant locations (reception hall, welcome drinks, London, Melbourne, etc.) made by my Dad. Cake table – I asked several guests if they would be willing to provide a cake or batch of biscuits. One friend then coordinated it all and the end result was beautiful. Amazing baked goods, beautifully displayed and suitably representative of SA and Australia! Ben worked with my sister (who did all our wedding stationery) to produce beautiful name tags for each place setting with the guest’s name and its meaning (made a lovely memento). Outdoor lighting: nice and simple. Wire around old coffee jars, hung from a tree with a candle inside. Ribbon streamers placed on signposts and all around the outdoor marquee. Table runners – handmade by a friend’s mom. Flowers were all done by friends (including bouquets and corsages).

How does your wedding reflect your personalities?

There was definitely a focus on good food, good company and good music as well as keeping things simple, all of which are important to us! The ceremony was relaxed with a strong theme of it being a marriage involving three parties – the two of us and our Heavenly Father. Very strong family presence in the old photographs on the walls both from Ben and my heritage. I’m very much a “community-based” person, which was again reflected in the involvement of friends and family in different tasks both in preparation for and throughout the day.